As we’ve been focusing on different alcoholic beverages in Spain this week, I couldn’t help but find myself reminiscing about two completely unplanned beverage-themed events that I simply happened upon while traveling. I’ve had the good fortune of stumbling upon both a feria de cervezas artesanales (craft beer festival) and a feria de vinos (wine festival) and I thought what better way to spend a Sunday than to share them with you! Let me set the scene…
July, 2017 Roadtripping up north with my travel buddy
For my first few years studying and teaching in Spain I visited so much of southern and eastern Spain but the north and all its picturesque promise was forever on my bucket list for ‘later.’ It was hard to get to any northern destination without a car or plane ticket and travel options from Granada were scarce and expensive, meaning that I never felt it was worthwhile when I only have a weekend to spare. Thus, a good friend of mine and fellow American-turned granadina agreed to tackle the north, one road trip at a time. In July 2016 our roadtrip dreams got turned into a Bla Bla Car adventure instead when we realized that renting a car under the age of 25 was a real pain in the neck. In 2017, however, we hit the open road!
Santiago de Compostela, Galicia
While others think of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela as the endpoint of the world-renowned Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, Nora and I like to think of it as the place we stumbled upon beer heaven! While we were visiting the famous landmark we happened to notice that huge tents were being set up out back and beer kegs were being rolled in. Intrigued, we went right up to the people setting up and asked what was going on. We were so excited when we heard exactly what we suspected, it was a feria de cervezas artesenales (craft beer festival) scheduled to kick off that very afternoon!
We decided it was best not to seem too eager so we carried on with our day of sightseeing but excitedly returned for the evening a few hours later. As we’ve mentioned before, typical Spanish beer isn’t necessary the most flavorful so it was such a treat to try out new brews from different craft breweries, many of which came from the local area or elsewhere up north.
Without planning it, we got the most unique taste of the Galicia while we got to chat with the vendors (many of them from small breweries they ran themselves) and enjoy alongside the locals. It was such a great way to immerse in the local culture and something that we wouldn’t have found in a guide book because it just happened to be taking place that week! It was definitely one of the most fun, memorable moments of our trip!
Funny Segue: One of the other stops Nora and I made on that same trip was Burgos and we loved it so much it made my list for the next adventure I’m about to tell you about too…
September, 2018 northern adventure with my husband
Sadly, by the summer of 2018 my northern roadtrip buddy Nora had returned to the US however I was incredibly lucky to have found a new perfect travel pal in my (now) husband, Oli. This time, we decided to explore a bit of País Vasco, La Rioja, and wrap up with stay in Burgos. We were eager to see and experience all the sights and tastes in each region, especially the wine in La Rioja! We had been day-dreaming about different winery and vineyard tours we could do and even got some great recommendations from our AirBnB host and Bla Bla Car driver.
However, during our short time in Logroño it rained every single day, leaving our plans to make a trip out to one or two of the quaint surrounding towns to visit a vineyard unfulfilled. While we still had a great time relaxing and getting some much-needed downtime in the city, we were both disappointed at our luck and kicking ourselves about not doing La Rioja (Spain’s most famous wine region) right!
Burgos, Castilla y León
As fate would have it, though, the most magical Palacio de Vinos event awaited us in Burgos! On what we thought was a long shot, we visited the Burgos’ office of tourist information on our first day in the city to inquire if there were any local wineries or places we could do a wine tasting. We knew we were no longer in wine country so it felt like a shot in the dark but just as the man behind the desk was confirming our belief he cut himself off and said something along the lines of “No, wait! There’s actually a big wine festival happening here this weekend!” Before we knew it he was printing us out all the information.
He explained that not only was there a feria de vinos (wine festival) that drew in dozens of large and small wine producers from all over Spain happening in Burgos but it was being hosted in three different historical buildings around the city, meaning that we could even engage in cultural sightseeing as we went (hence the name “Palaces of Wine”)! For the low fee of 10€ a person we would receive a Palacios de Vinos wine glass and 20 coupons to taste test whichever wines we chose. Seeing as wines ranged in ‘price’ from 2 to 6 coupons, that was a pretty amazing deal! We were sold immediately.
We quickly started plotting our game plan, choosing which building to start out at based on the types of wines that would be present at each as well as location and what we imagined would be their popularity. With a few other eager attendees, we waited outside the doors until they were opened for the evening tasting and then we pounced. We really had no idea how the event would go or even how one was supposed to act at what seemed like such a sophisticated event so we tried to follow the lead of those around us.
We got chatting with a few of the vendors, many of whom ran small operations and were using the feria for exposure. We got to ask lots of questions and taste far more wines that our coupons would have allowed since most everyone was just so eager to share their products with us. It was such a fun experience and definitely something I couldn’t have planned for (or at least wouldn’t have been looking for outside of the circumstances. In fact, it has been a pleasure in the time since to see some of those up and coming wine brands that we ‘discovered’ in Burgos showing up in our local supermarkets!
To this day, I truly cannot believe our luck that we missed out completely on the wine tasting experience in La Rioja but the next day we showed up in the city that just so happened to be hosting Palacios de Vinos, a festival that changes locations every year! It was, for sure, a happenstance event to be remembered!
Have you had any chance encounters with ferias like mine? Or any other kind of really cool event you just stumbled upon? We’d love to hear your stories!